Boaters go overboard with decorations at annual Blessing of the Fleet

By Lydia Goerner | Jul 01, 2017
Photo by: Evan Debevec-McKenney The vessel "Valhalla" floats past a cheering crowd, dancing and blasting music. The boat ultimately came in second place for best dressed boat and crew.

The fourth annual Blessing of the Fleet brought dogs and humans in spangled red, white and blue to see boaters and their decorated vessels.

The Blessing of the Fleet took place Saturday at the Onset Pier. There were 45 boats participating and each chose a theme and decorations, ranging from blasting music, hula dancers, colorful smoke or bubbles. Each boat passed the Onset Pier where a crowd of spectators cheered them on.

As the boats paraded by, Antonio Lisboa da Silva of Saint Patrick’s Church blessed the vessels. Lisboa da Silva said this was his first time blessing a fleet, but he was undaunted by the challenge. He prayed for the safety of the boats and fishermen this season and threw holy water into the water.

The tradition of blessing the fleet began in the early 1600s, said Assistant Harbormaster Jamie McIntosh. A priest would bless fishing vessels at the beginning of the season. In Wareham, the tradition was observed in the 1970s and 1980s, but it stopped until four years ago.

When it first started up again, the Blessing of the Fleet in Onset was a “small and quaint" event, McIntosh said, but it has grown into a “huge community event.” The boats were greeted enthusiastically by community members and visitors.

The boats are judged and prizes awarded for the best dressed vessel and crew. McIntosh said there has been a rivalry between boats “Valhalla” and “Overbudget” for the past three years. They have traded the first place spot over the years.

McIntosh said he expected “absolute chaos” when “Overbudget,” captained by Trenton Blanchard, was announced the first place winner, but the crews were in good spirits upon learning the news. “Valhalla,” with captain Chad Crittenden came in second place, followed by Rich McBrine’s “Trust Me.”

Members of the Junior Color Guard cheered on each boat, spraying them with water guns and picking out their favorites. (Photo by: Lydia Goerner)
"Valhalla" wows the crowd with red, white and blue smoke during the boat parade. (Photo by: Evan Debevec-McKenney )
Will Regan, age 5, decorated his bike as an "Americanasaurous" for the children's bike parade, held immediately after the Blessing of the Fleet. (Photo by: Lydia Goerner)
Ava Regan, 10, and Will Regan, 5, prepare to show off their spangled bikes in the bike parade on the pier. (Photo by: Lydia Goerner)
The crew of "Overbudget" celebrates its victory. (Photo by: Evan Debevec-McKenney )
Comments (1)
Posted by: ChristianFernandes | Jul 01, 2017 15:58

I really like what the the boat parade, "blessing of the fleet", has become. It actually resurfaced in 1994 during Onset's Centennial celebration, and continued until ending after the summer of 1996. My friends and I had entered boats all three of those years. The last year, I didn't attend because it was my first year of college and I went a month before school actually started to get settled in.

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